Everything You Need To Know About Self Breast Exams

Women should perform a self breast exam every month to look and feel for changes. Regular breast exams can help you maintain breast health and detect abnormalities early on, when it is easier to treat and more likely to be cured. Many lumps and abnormalities aren’t cancerous, but you should still report any changes to your doctor for your overall wellbeing. 

What is a breast self-exam?

A breast self-exam is a super easy step-by-step method women can use to examine their breasts in between annual check-ups. By visually and manually inspecting your breasts regularly, you're able to notice anything that seems abnormal.

How often do I need to give myself a self-exam?

Once a month, every month. Women who are still having a regular periods should perform their self-exam right after their period. Women who have stopped menstruating, and those who have very irregular periods can pick a day each month that is consistent and easy to remember (like the first day of the month, the last day of the month or your favorite number).

How long does a breast exam take?

Only a few minutes.You can do your breast exam while you’re:

How do I do my breast self-exam?

1. Visual inspection: With your shirt and bra removed, stand in front of a mirror. Put your arms down by your sides. Look for any changes in your breast shape, breast swelling, dimpling in the skin or changes in the nipples. Next, raise your arms high overhead and look for the same things. Finally, put your hands on your hips and press firmly to make your chest muscles flex. Look for the same changes again. Be sure to look at both breasts.

2. Manual inspection while standing up: With your shirt and bra removed, use your right hand to examine your left breast, then vice versa. With the pads of your three middle fingers, press on every part of one breast. Use light pressure, then medium, then firm. Feel for any lumps, thick spots or other changes. A circular pattern may help you make sure you hit every spot. Then, press the tissue under the arm. Be sure to check under the areola and then squeeze the nipple gently to check for discharge. Repeat the steps on the other side of your body.

Breast Self-Exam

Breast Self-Exam

3. Manual inspection while lying down: When you lie down, your breast tissue spreads more evenly,. So this is a good position to feel for changes, especially if your breasts are large. Lie down and put a pillow under your right shoulder. Place your right arm behind your head. Using your left hand, apply the same technique as step 2, using the pads of your fingers to press all parts of the breast tissue and under your arm. Finally, swap the pillow to the other side, and check the other breast and armpit. Be sure to check under the areola and then squeeze the nipple gently to check for discharge.

When should I call my doctor about something I find in my breast self-exam?

If you find a lump or any other worrisome changes, stay calm. Most self-exam findings are not signs of breast cancer. But you should still call your OBGYN provider if you notice any:

Never hesitate to call us at the office if you have any questions or concerns about your breast self-exam. With each exam, you will become more familiar with your body. When you know what’s normal for you, you will be more aware when changes occur.

Bella Women's Care Blogger

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